Spiritual Issues | Thoughts

Tales from Outside

June 2, 2008

I don’t think I have ever been as acutely aware of my status of “outside” as I have become recently. I am very much a Git-er-done kinda gal and, well, in the small congregations where I have found myself in the last 30 years of my life and even the one brief foray into Big Church Fellowship I have managed to be front and center.

Now, I don’t particularly enjoy front and center, contrary to much popular opinion. I just realize that’s where the abilities G-d has given me generally lands me and I try my best to function well within those parameters. As The Mr. can attest, there is rarely a time I walk up on stage and I’m not sweaty palms and carefully planned exit strategies, heart pounding and brain racing.

Until the music starts…

Then it’s just my Lord and I and anyone who wants to jump in and join is welcome. If you don’t? Well, I’m not singing to you anyway, so it’s a bummer you can’t have as much fun as I am.

As long as my fingers are busy on the keys and the lyrics are leading me into a Holy Place I am still.

I know who I am in those circles, that environment. I know how to SERVE the Body. At least in those capacities. I can organize, I facilitate, I clean up, I come along side. That’s as natural to me as breathing.

This? This stillness? Long, peaceful days. No deadlines, going to church a privilege in my weekend, not a requirement in the sense of a “job to do”.

I sit on the second to the last row and look at people I don’t know and wonder what to do. I can come in late and no one notices, I can leave early and no one cares. I am invisible.

The young, beautiful mom crowd clusters at the front doors exchanging cookies on their way out. The singles group meets in the foyer on Tuesdays and my children rush off to their “children’s service” without so much as a backward glance.

I’m not needed. The machine runs smoothly without me.

I’m not hurt, wounded or broken by this place I am in. Rather bemused. What does a “take the bull by the horns” girl do when there aren’t any bulls around?

Today I went to Starbucks and purchased a large mint tea and cinnamon swirl coffee cake (low fat, better choices), settled myself in the corner table and studied Hebrews 2. Just me, tea , a lovely bit of coffee cake, an artists red tipped pen, study notes and a grid note pad. The question at the top of the page asked me “Why am I studying this?” and I hesitated.

It took me a full five minutes to write something.

As a leader, I studied to share, I studied to hold myself accountable and above reproach, I studied because I knew I needed constant refinement so that if and when the Lord desired to use me I wouldn’t sully His ministry through my own selfish and vain actions. Well, not as much as I would if I weren’t in the Word.

But now I don’t have a group of ladies looking up at me, I don’t have a congregation of people and a team watching my every move. I have become indeterminate. Even vacillating. Sort of. *grin*

So, why am I studying?

Simply because I can’t abide empty spaces and unanswered questions I scribbled something innocuous and Right. Regardless of whether or not I really believed what I wrote. I don’t believe motivation is as importance as movement. i.e. My feet should always go in the right direction whether or not my heart is feeling it at the moment.

I plodded on, gritted my teeth and dug in.

I came home shaken and refreshed and emotional and very conscious of my own weakness.

I don’t know how to be just heidi. Little h. I’ve forgotten who she is in the years I tried to function in a bedlam of expectations and exhausting, non-stop drama. In the shadow of whispers and implications and tight-fisted control masked as one way accountability and shrouded in a guise of good intentions. I’d forgotten the why of who I am. And the mystery of how He talks to me.

Hebrews 2 warns us that if we forget who He is and what He offers, salvation, we will drift away.

I find it remarkable that He took me to the very fringes of what seemed good to draw me close so that I could remember the fragrance of His presence. He pulled me out to draw me in. It doesn’t seem to make sense!

Sitting on the outside is painful for me. Feeling as though I am disposable is excruciating to my ego but vital to my development and growth. We are all both priceless and completely replaceable in the Kingdom. One of those goofy Biblical paradigms where two seemingly opposing truths can coexist peacefully.

I mean after all, if G-d wants to use me? That doesn’t make me special.

He used Balaam’s donkey too.

I’m learning to be still. To take the little steps in front of me and to remember what the most important things are. I am trying to understand the truth that G-dly fellowship is superior to man’s function and how gifts can somehow make room for me. Even in the oddest places.

I am connecting with the Body Corporate in my community and seeing His Children everywhere. His kids are beautiful and tragic. Gimpy and triumphant. Peaceful and confused. Kinda like me.

This outside thing isn’t so bad, I guess. I’m only outside what is familiar, not outside the Body and His plan.

I wonder… Is there something more I could be doing?

*laughs out loud*

  • momma dragon

    I feel you, now imagine your Mr. and all your children don’t go with you. You are a stranger to your town and work 20 miles from home. when you go, you slip in unnoticed and slip out again before the benediction. You join in the singing, remembering the days when you used to feel the passion.
    you visit several times over time, but not often enough, in a row, to be remembered. People are friendly in the shallow, casual, ‘seeker sensitive’ way, but they never call or really know when you are not there.
    I am not judging here, just stating the fact of my existance since 2003, when I moved to this place. Until my youngest daughter moved home with a little one on the way. she didn’t really feel at home where I visited most often and so we looked for a place for both of us.
    We enjoy the teaching style and are blessed by the genuine spitit of the fellowship. We agree with all we’ve heard so far. some of her co-workers attend there, but I am still a stranger.
    they rent a theater, so the atmosphere is very casual. I did join a short term ladies bible study group and got know a few ladies, enough to say ‘hi’ Still no one calls and that is over now and again I am alone.
    I should take the opportunity, I suppose, to enjoy the solitude and commune with my God, but I feel so ‘out of the loop’ and invisible.
    I guess I always measured my self worth by how much I was doing and how well I did it. Now the crutch is gone and it is just me, alone, no Mr. leading, no children watching, no people following.
    Still I am compelled to go – I need to go – I always hope next time it will be different…………..

  • I mean after all, if G-d wants to use me? That doesnโ€™t make me special.

    It seems to me that G-d primarily uses two kinds of people: Those who make themselves available to him and those tools who suit his purposes for the moment. Balaam’s donkey fits the first category and should be respected for it. Balaam (the famous and wealthy prophet) fits the second and should be pitied.

  • “I studied to hold myself accountable and above reproach, I studied because I knew I needed constant refinement”

    You still have a husband and children. You still have family and friends. They are worth it,too. Of course, you already know that and could (and probably should) remind me of the same…

  • Heidi,

    Great thoughts! You know, I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year or so about what fellowship or “church” is all about. Is the body really defined by a building where we meet once a week, listen to worship, hear a sermon, gab afterwards, and then go on our merry way?

    I have moments, even being involved in our church, where I wonder: what am I doing? What’s the point? What purpose am I really serving? Am I serving the church, or God and his people? Which is it?

    I’ve talked with scores of people – committed followers of Christ – who believe the church culture we’ve created is no longer effective (not to mention the credibility it has lost). I wonder if true fellowship isn’t just a group of people (small group) meeting together to break bread, share, encourage and learn together. Why does it have to be a production? Why does there need to be a full-time paid pastor? Is it really just that one man’s job to shepard the flock? Is it really possible for him to do that in a church of 50, 100, 500 or more? I think not. He can’t do it all, nor should he be expected to.

    Gwen and I know of a couple who used to be youth leaders. They were a part of the church ministry for several years, but started to notice a trend – especially in the younger generation – who want relationship, not church. They now believe their calling is grassroots. Their goal is to meet their neighbors, get to know them, have them over for dinner, encourage them, pray for them, and even share God’s love with them. But their goal isn’t to win over another soul for Christ. It’s simply to have relationship.

    They’ve seen greater success in being able to talk about Jesus, when they first love people; when the first take an interest in who they are as a person, rather than just another checkmark on the saved-souls quotta chart. I think people would be intersted in God, if we take an interest in them with no alterior motives.

    One of the things I’m starting to realize is that the typical church setting doesn’t always offer community. It offers a social gathering, or even a club, but when everyone leaves the bulding, that’s where it stops. I’m not saying church is obsolete, or unnecessary. I just wonder what life would be like if we had more of a community mentality, rather than a ministry mentality.

  • I know, Birdie. That’s the conviction that I found when I dug deeper. And that’s where it should have been focused all along.

    MD… I love you. Just remember… You are never alone. Ever.

    Jay C… I love that distinction! I hadn’t heard that before, but it truly resonates with me. Thanks for that.

  • Jason, that’s a lot to chew on. But I am tending to find myself there more and more. The Kingdom isn’t somebody else’s concern it’s the business of the servants who are to steward the Master’s investments until He returns.

    How are we doing?

    Well, that’s kind of a scary thought.

  • Heidi,

    Yes, I agree. It is a lot to chew on. I’m not exactly sure where I fit into this pardigm yet, but I sure see a shift.

    Look at any major polling or research institute, and there’s a definite exodus of people out of the church. What interesting, though, at least in a Barna report I read, is that among those people who left the church (or should I say building?), many of them profess to be committed Christians who just didn’t feel like the church was meeting their needs.

    Who knows, maybe God is trying to redfine our thoughts about church? It’s scary given the fact that we all want to hang onto to what’s familiar and comfortable. But maybe – just maybe – therein lies the problem: everything is too familiar and too comfortable. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oh, and I should clarify one thing. I don’t want anyone to get the idea I think church as we know should just die off and that all pastors should quit their job, or that they don’t deserve the full-time pay they’re getting.

    I just think that maybe the typical form of fellowship we’re so used to in the church culture today, isn’t for everyone.

  • It’s never easy climbing outside the box. People look, they whisper, some think you are going to hell. So what. Don’t listen to the voices on the outside. They love to scream and yell and tell us we are off track. I think, off the “Club” track is exactly where the train is headed. Hold on.
    Oh, stop trying to fit in. It never works. If you look at the story of the guy we aim to follow, he never fit in. It cost Him His life.

  • To a certain extent I’m puzzled when people say that their church “isn’t meeting their needs” because church isn’t necessarily just a passive feeding trough. I sometimes feel that people put all the burden on the pastor to be all things to all people. And that can’t possibly be; sometimes, if the church isn’t meeting needs, then WE need to find a way in the church to get our needs met by helping to create the ministry that we need, because if we feel the need surely there are others who are hungry for it as well.

    But on the other hand, I have been in ministry situations where the leadership is poisoning the body and there is little that I can do about it.

    Heidi, I can relate to your fallow time; I too have spent most of my Christian life in fellowships where I tend towards leadership positions both in a practical sense and in a musical sense. It can be a huge burden that often can interfere with the practice of worship. I hope that you can use this time to revel in the freedom to worship without the onus of leadership. That can be a blessing as well. And when your fallow time is over (if it ever is) G-d will lead you to where you need to be, as I’m sure you know. And that may just be in a small gathering in your home or in the home of others, or in somewhere else unexpected. And it just might be the church where you are.

  • Hmmm, the Starbucks sounds nice. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m completely understanding where you’re at.